Monday, December 31, 2012

Pilote's Favorite Lotus Joke

"The Lotus 40: a Lotus 30 with ten more mistakes added."

(This was when McLarens and Lola T-70's were dominating Can-Am racing.  Come to think of it, that's the only Lotus joke Pilote knows...)

Lotus 30/40 at the Goodwood Historics.  Chapman did not provide a chin spoiler: that was one mistake...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Off Topic: The Farnsworth House


Someone reminded me of one of my favorite touring destinations in Chicagoland: the Farnsworth House, just south of Plano, IL.  The drive itself is only OK.  The Fox River Valley is mostly straight, flat, and densely populated, with few twisties.  But the destination is worth the trip.

The house was done by architect Mies van der Rohe, for Edith Farnsworth between 1945 and 1951.  Along with Philip Johnson's "Glass House" (done for himself) and a number of office towers, it has become an icon of the Minimalist School.  Minimalism was famously summed up by Mies as "Less is more."

A digital rendering/enhancement of the Farnsworth House.  This "cleans it up" by removing a large Oak tree
that both Mies and Farnsworth left standing.  Their idea was to "bring the outside in" by maximizing the
features of the natural setting.  But this rendering highlights the look Mies was going for, for the house itself. 

The Farnsworth House as it really looks in autumn.  It was intended to "float" in the landscape.  Interestingly, the
approach to the house--the way you were meant to first see it--is from the river.  Edith Farnsworth didn't own a boat.
Her garage was up the hill (a good ways) behind the house.  The house was sited for maximum visual impact.

Minimalism can be seen as an architectural counterpart to car-styling preferences.  People who like knotty-pine paneling and embroidered samplers find minimalism austere and cold.  If they care about cars at all, they like cars that make an emotional statement.  For people who prefer minimalism (like me), the kitsch of a "homey home" is clutter.  Minimalists say "If it's not functional, out it goes."  At one extreme, automotively speaking, we have what General Motors offered 1958-59.  At the other, in the same era, we have the Italian School: PininFarina and Bertone.

Edith Farnsworth was a single, middle-aged, "liberated," woman with a thriving medical practice in Chicago which allowed her to indulge her tastes.  She asked Mies to do a weekend getaway cottage for the Fox River frontage she owned.  Even though their tastes were in synch, it was an unhappy professional (and gossip said personal) relationship.  It eventually resulted in a lawsuit for over-billing and inadequate provision for practicalities, which Mies won.  An example: the screens for the porch never worked properly.  Frank Lloyd Wright's houses caused similar complaints from their owners.  His houses were expensive to maintain, if they could be maintained at all without constant rebuilding.  When you're rich, and want to indulge your tastes and ego by hiring a famous architect, bring even more money and aspirin than you'd planned, for his ego.

Another problem: although Mies read the Fox River flood studies, and placed the house above the highest water levels
then recorded, the Farnsworth House has flooded three times, twice in recent years.  The worst took water to a foot above
the floor.  With buried power lines and utilities in the "central core" which drops below floor level, flooding is even more
 consequential than it would normally be.  But the reflection makes a great picture.

Another rear view: two small bathrooms, the kitchen (seen here), and a fireplace (opposite) surround all utilities in the
"central core," which itself runs about the width of the kitchen.  This is a small, one-bedroom house (about 1500 sq. ft.).

The "living room" of this open-plan house.  Furniture designed by Mies.  Smoke from the fireplace (left) discolored
the beautiful wood of the cabinets because he didn't provide for enough draft with an "unsightly" chimney.  A clever
feature was to heat the entire stone floor (electrically) to avoid ugly forced air vents.  This works fine in a moderate
climate.  A bone of contention between Mies and Farnsworth was the wardrobe in the background.  Mies felt that it
blocked the view; Farnsworth needed space for her clothes.  He relented--this time--and did the wardrobe for her.   

One reason the Farnsworth House took so long to complete was that Mies and Farnsworth took pains with the smallest details and the design went through several refinements.  Mies revised the details of proportions and the central core in minor ways several times, although the size and look of the house was not changed.  Construction was complex too.  The basic structure is a single welded-up steel frame, so care had to be taken with window fitment (especially at the four corners).  Everything in the house (including the steel for the frame) was manufactured to special order with the exception of minor items like sinks, a bathtub, and some appliances.

Top to bottom: 1) Preliminary Plan I, 2) Preliminary Plan II, 3) Final Plan, 4) as lived
in by Edith Farnsworth, 5) as used by the second owner.  The house is now owned
by the National Trust For Historic Preservation and is on the U.S. National Register
Of Historic Places.

Obviously personal privacy is not a hallmark of the design.  But Farnsworth's lot was a large one (about 20 acres), and the house is sited so that it can be seen only from the river.  Sixty years ago, the Fox had much less recreational use than it does today.  Farnsworth and the subsequent private owner allowed a few smaller trees and some low scrub growth to reclaim the river bank, providing privacy that the glass walls don't.  She used the house frequently until she retired, when she lived there full time until her death.

If you're interested in minimalist architecture and are in the Chicago area, you can visit the Farnsworth House; Google its website for information.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Slow Fun (Old Mini In-Car Race Video)

The Mini in the video doesn't exceed about 100 m.p.h. or 1.0 lateral g's.  It's usually well under those values.  Braking force is around 0.5 g's and acceleration is a whopping 0.1 g's.  1.3 liters = big smiles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7k-8Y2hTio

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Upping The Dragon Ante

Sign on eastbound U.S. 129 at Tallassee, TN (a bit west of Foothills Parkway).

Thanks to the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort for this pic.  Their Facebook post (embedded in their website) says "We often get questions about what it's like around here in the winter."  They go on to say that the Dragon is a low priority to plow and salt because it is lightly traveled in winter and Blount County TDOT has its hands full with more essential roads.  (I'll guess also that the National Park Service is not crazy about salt leaching into the surrounding soil.)

The Dragon is challenging enough in ideal weather.  More so in the rain.  Now I understand better why we see locals driving 4WD pickups in Killboy's Highlights during the "season."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fly Yellow


Ferrari 330 P4 in Ecurie Francorchamps colors.  Ferrari sold four of these cars to private teams in 1967 to backstop
the factory cars.  They were no more successful against Ford's Mark IV than the 312 P's had been against the GT 40. 

I didn't pay much attention to yellow Ferraris until I saw Alain de Cadenet demonstrate the car above in his Victory By Design TV series.  It captivated me, especially in contrast to the traditionally red 330's.  Yellow is the Belgian national racing color; this car (which had a so-so racing history) is painted the same shade as the Tipo 156 entered for Olivier Gendebien in the 1961 Belgian Grand Prix.  It's also the same shade as Ferrari's by now long-standing catalog color, Fly Yellow.  I believe the catalog color is the same as the one Ferrari originally used to spray Ecurie Francorchamps cars.

Yellow is not among my favorite colors for cars.  The shade doesn't matter much; it doesn't work for me on Acuras, Corvettes, Lamborghinis, Mustangs, or Chevy Cobalts.  For that matter, it doesn't work on all Ferraris.  The Daytona 375 GTB looks better in red.  (No color can save a 1980's Testa Rossa.)  Although I haven't seen a 458 Italia in Fly Yellow, I doubt that it would look better than red.  Most Ferraris should be red.  Not metallic, candy apple, plum, or orangey red.  Ferrari "Red Sauce Red."

Did Equipe Nationale Belge or Ecurie Francorchamps ever run a 250 GT SWB?  No idea.

Small cars with curvy lines look great in Fly Yellow.  The Porsche 356 and the Generation 3 Mazda RX-7 come to mind (neither came in yellow from the factory).  And Ferrari Dinos and 250 GT SWB's.
 Best of all, though, was the 330 P4.  Why "Fly"?  A chat room post says it means "Ferrari Light Yellow.  OK...  But Italian for yellow is giallo.  And isn't "Ferrari Light Yellow Yellow" redundant?

Monday, December 24, 2012

ATGIOT (All The Gear In Olden Times)


Driving gloves and shoes?  Check.  Helmet and goggles?  Check.  Where's the starter button?  (Ricardo  Rodriguez in a Porsche RSK at Meadowdale in 1959.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Remembering More Bygone Courses

I did a post about Meadowdale (07/29/12) that mentioned Riverside Raceway in passing.  Here's another post to salute some good courses (and one great one)--and the times that went with them.  These were all "legitimate" road circuits.  No airport tracks are included, although a nod is due them for  giving road racers a place to play in the years when true road courses began to disappear and the purpose-built courses that replaced them were not yet on-line.

While I'm at it, a shout out to the lesser-known courses that survived from inception until now, sometimes by the skin of their teeth: Blackhawk Farms, Grattan, Nelsons Ledges, Roebling Road, Summit Point, Virginia International Raceway, Willow Springs.  Those are the ones that come to mind; no doubt there are others.

The courses below were mostly in the East and Midwest, the regions I know best.  If you want more information on them, you can find it by Googling the name with additional modifiers in the search window, like "history" or "road races."


Thompson, CT (1952-1978)

Thompson was a 5/8 mile oval before that track became part of the road course.  George and Barbara Weaver, early East Coast pillars of the SCCA, were instrumental in Thompson's creation.  It regularly hosted SCCA Nationals in the glory days of amateur road racing.  The circle track remains in use today.  There has been talk of reviving Thompson as a (reconfigured) 2-mile road course again.  But it was then, and would remain now, overshadowed by the nearby and hugely successful Lime Rock Park, which itself has a history rivaling other iconic courses in the U.S.


Far right: Barbara and George Weaver (at the wheel of his Maserati V8RI "Poison Lil").  This picture was taken at
Shannon's Atlantic in Watkins Glen in 1951.   George Shannon is standing behind the black MG TD.  Weaver won the
Formula Libre race on the old, through-the-town, circuit the next day.  The car next to his is an Allard J2X.  The MG's
are wearing dealer plates.  They probably came up from New York City to do some marketing while taking in the races. 


Marlboro Raceway (1954-1969)

This course was near Upper Marlboro, MD (and Washington DC), and a venue for major SCCA races until it was "abandoned" in favor of Summit Point (WV) by the local SCCA Region.  Like Thompson, it incorporated part of a short oval track.  It is now private land, with parts of the course still visible on Google Earth.


Chuck Stoddard's Alfa Giulietta Veloce in the hairpin at Marlboro, 1961.  He came second in the race and won the
D Production title that year (one of his four championships).  Spectators, not to mention workers, have never since
been this close to the action.  Was signing a Release a release in those less risk-conscious and litigious days?



Bridgehampton, NY (1957-1971)

Like Watkins Glen, Road America, and Laguna Seca, Bridgehampton replaced a through-the-streets course.  Like them, and Thompson and Marlboro too, it was home to major SCCA events: Can-Am cars raced at Bridgehampton.  Like Meadowdale, it was abandoned for many years after it closed, but was finally "re-purposed:" Bridgehampton is now a golf course.


Bridgehampton part-way through its metamorphosis into a golf course.  The bridge to the infield is not yet down, but the
fairways and greens have been laid out.  I don't golf.  This picture makes me sad.  Maybe they could name the club
house after one of the dozens of famous drivers who completed the course in about a minute and 30, well under par.


Riverside Raceway, CA (1957-1989)

Of all the courses in the U.S. that have disappeared, Riverside's demise is the most regrettable.  Legendary races were held there from beginning to end, including SCCA, IMSA, and NASCAR pro events.  Superstar drivers and iconic cars ran Riverside regularly.  And when it finally went under, it did so quickly and irretrievably: it became a shopping mall and subdivisions.  Riverside was a victim of urban sprawl in Los Angeles.  In the boondocks when it was built, it was valuable real-estate when it closed.

The original 3.3 mile course included a 1.1 mile (!) straight.  It was later shortened to 2.6 miles
with the cut-off between Turn 7 and "Old 8," and a dog-leg leading onto a new and very fast
Turn 9 with twice the radius, still banked.  Either way, Riverside was a fast course.

One of many epic battles at Riverside: Phil Hill (Ferrari 410) tries to get the drop on Chuck Daigh (Scarab) by going
around the outside in Turn 7 to get the preferred line into "Old 8."  This was a race-long, place-swapping, duel until
near the end, when Hill retired with overheating and Daigh cruised to a win.  L.A. Times Grand Prix, 1958.  A
Mercedes Benz 300SL, never much of a factor in U.S. road racing, is being abandoned (quickly) in the background.


Greenwood Raceway, IA (1963-1966)

Near Indianola, Iowa (south of Des Moines), Greenwood lasted only three years.  "Big time" 1964 and 1965 USRRC events were financial failures from which it never recovered.  There are more elevation changes than the aerial photograph suggests, which made Greenwood a fast and challenging 3.0 mile course.  Much of the asphalt yet exists, on private land, used to train heavy-equipment operators and closed to the public.

The pits were on the short straight, lower right.

Practice for the 1964 USRRC event.  Foreground, Lotus 23; background, Chuck Stoddard's Alfa GTZ.  Stoddard came
third in GT-2 behind two factory Ford Lotus Cortinas, when his fuel system vapor-locked while he was leading.  He
finished 4th in the SCCA's Manufacturers' Championship and was Central Division C Production Champion in 1964.

Thanks to Chuck Brandt for bringing me up-to-date on the current status of Greenwood Raceway.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

All Skate!

 With Chicagoland due for its first big snow dump of the season tonight, this seems an appropriate link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE60YvADhx8

Hilariously, the guy in the Frazer-Nash, with the least weather protection, seems to be out there the longest.  There'll Always Be An England!  The Jaguar Mark I, "BUY 1," was a famous factory-supported car in the British Touring Car Championship back-in-the-day, and runs at the Goodwood Revival every year these days.  Sideways was the technique then, and so it is now, rain or shine.  Wheeeee!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Magnus Walker's 911's

Magnus Walker's 1972 911 STR, Pilote's favorite, photographed from a great angle.  

 Some of my most-read posts are about Porsches (not necessarily 911's).  I came across Walker and his cars in a Jay Leno's Garage video.  It was interesting enough to make me cruise Walker's website and watch the 30-minute film about him, Urban Outlaw, on YouTube.

So this post is a kind of public service for 911 freaks who (like me until recently) may not have discovered Walker.  "Outlaw" Porsches are fine with me.  But Walker's aesthetic doesn't appeal to me compared to Achim Anscheit's and some others.  Thus I don't link to him here.  If you're interested, Google the references above.  For those deep into this kind of pudding (as Tom Wolfe wrote in another context), see the video link in my 12/02/12 post "Stripped, Sweet, 911" and my 07/13/12 post "Thanks, Butzi," besides taking a look at Walker's work.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Beast (The 289 USRRC Cobra)

1964 Cobra 289 USRRC car.  I don't recognize the driver; he may be a Shelby American mechanic.

This low resolution picture is excellent in two respects: 1) It was taken at Mid-Ohio in 1964; 2) the color is dead-nuts on.  It documents the car.  This is exactly what a USRRC Cobra looked like: brake scoops, Halibrand alloys, white exhausts, mirrors, and all.  I know because I saw them run at Watkins Glen in '64.

The 427 Cobra has a well-deserved reputation for being a beast.  In race trim, the 289 car wasn't a stroll in the park either.  I watched most of the '64 Watkins Glen race from the end of the long straight.  At that time, there was no "bus stop" chicane.  Instead, there was a tighter right-left chicane leading directly onto what is now called the "Outer Loop."

The factory Cobras had no competition in the "big dog" GT class.  They ran ahead of the field like a 3-car train.  The drivers were Ken Miles, Ed Leslie, and Bob Johnson.  Two privately entered Cobras finished fourth and fifth (Harold Keck and Graham Shaw), a lap down.  They were followed home by Chuck Stoddard's Alfa Romeo GTZ, another lap down.  Mike Gammino's Ferrari GTO ran sixth before it DNF'ed.  The point of this list is that nobody had anything for the factory Cobras.

With the race won on the starting grid, the factory team drivers were free to play.  Cobras have a short wheelbase.  The cars were unstable in heavy braking, or Miles, Leslie, and Johnson were trying to outfox each other in the braking zones, or both.  They darted and weaved all over the road as they shifted down for the chicane.  Johnson out-braked himself once and got "four wheels off" into the dust on driver's left.  He was able to whoa it up in the dirt and grass, and re-entered the race a more distant third.

We sometimes hear that a race car is "forgiving" or easy to drive.  The USRRC Cobras were not.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Still Crazy After All These Years (About The SWB)

These "Carshow Classic" video walk-arounds are good enough that I struggle against linking to all of them.  (There are a couple of good Aston Martin ones, for example.)

But the Ferrari 250 GT SWB is too delicious to resist.  For fifty years, it has been my fantasy "If you could take one car to a desert island..." car.  (What would you do with a Ferrari on a desert island?  That's the problem with fantasies.)

You can make an argument (I do) that it was the last of the "true" GT racers.  In this sense: it was a catalogued, steel-bodied, car available for sale to the general public.  The only difference between the street car and the race car was that the latter had an (identical) aluminum body and a race-tuned engine.  Tape the lights, remove the bumpers (or not) and go racing!  The SWB showed the way to Jaguar and Aston Martin with the "lightweight" E-Type and the racing DB 4, both aluminum replicas of the street cars.

While the GTO was a derivation of the SWB, it came only with an aluminum body and racing-spec engine (without a radiator fan).  No heater or other creature comforts.  Under FIA regulations, it was a GT, but it was conceived as a racing car.

And I love the looks of the SWB.  A few posts back I used the term "close-coupled:" there's no extra sheet metal or overhang on this car.  When the owner says it is "the first car with disc brakes," he means the first production Ferrari with disc brakes.  They were not a novelty on British cars.  As for power: 270 h.p. was a lot.  The 283 cu. in. Corvette fuelie claimed 283 h.p., but was closer to 250.  Jaguar claimed 220 for it's 3.8 liter six.  The SWB was probably the fastest car you could buy in 1960.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yuy1hvjIUQ


How could this be improved?   Eliminate the rear side vent and make the taillights flush.  That's it.  What a sweetie!

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Continuing Obsession With The TZ

I"ve posted about the Alfa GTZ before.  The link below is to a good video walk-around for those who share my enthusiasm for "little dog" race cars (especially GT's).  Alas, no engine sounds.  And this one obviously has camshafts as radical as the original race car's: the rebuilt engine has a rev limit of 8000 r.p.m., 1500 more than the '64-'65 car.

If the current owner is correct that this is an ex-Auto Delta car, it was not only a racing TZ but a factory-supported car.  With historic race cars, provenance can be cloudy.  Engines and drive trains blew, chassis got crashed and repaired or scrapped, subsequent owners modified the cars.  This car is not a completely original specificaton: it lacks the closeable flaps over the upper radiator air intake and has additional cooling slots.  And some modern interior equipment.

The GTZ is sometimes called "the baby [Ferrari] GTO."  Like the GTO, it had a production-based engine, an aluminum body, and a lighter-than-previous space frame.  And the two cars look somewhat alike, although the GTO's body was done by Scaglietti and the TZ's by Zagato.  The "baby" theme is carried through today: while TZ's cost maybe 10% of  a GTO's auction price, they're not cheap.  About 125 were built, so they're rare.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x5u_C45J_w


The 1964 Sebring class-winning Alfa GTZ in the Collier Museum today, restored to its as-raced-at-Sebring trim.  Alfa
brought four identical cars to Sebring, thus the yellow identification stripes on the fender for timing and scoring.

The Stoddard/Kaser GTZ hauling the mail to a class win at Sebring.  Before cool-suits: want some relief from the heat?
Hold the vent windows full-open with rubber bands.  Many racing TZ's had sliding panels in their plexiglass side
windows.  But not the team cars at Sebring in '64, or the TZ that Stoddard raced in the States in '64 and '65.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

48 Degrees--And Loving It

I drove to St. Charles, IL, today for my monthly lunch with my sports car pal Larry.  It's always a good time: gearhead talk over expensive pasta in a downtown restaurant with curbside views and a "traditional" ambience.  Al fresco, if we like, from May through September.  The ambient temperature was 48 degrees on the drive home today.  I drove the Fox River Valley with the sunroof open, enjoying the views.

Chicago has a reputation for brutal winters.  It is mostly well-deserved on the Loop, where you're close to Lake Michigan and the wind howls between skyscrapers.  The clockwise flow of most weather systems dumps lake-effect snow from Milwaukee around the shoreline to South Bend, Indiana.  But today was delightful.  Minneapolis and Cleveland, the two other major metro areas I know best, have already seen crummy weather.  Earlier this week, the Twin Cities got twelve inches of snow with temperatures in the teens and bone-chilling wind.

Probably, in January and February, my monthly lunch with Larry will be with a drive through sloppy or icy sub-zero weather.  By March, the weather gets tolerable.  By April, it's reasonably nice.  Ten months out of twelve ain't bad.  Last winter, I didn't have my snowblower out at all.  Granted, I have one, and sometimes need it.  But on days like today, I'll take Chicagoland for winter in the upper Midwest.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Civic Si Dragon Video

As long as my most recent post was about a Civic Si, here's another: keep 'em together.  This video got my attention because I've not shot my own passes.  He's using the same gears, mostly, in the same places, but with more up/downshifts.  He's matching my pace--in the rain.  I would love a tuner exhaust on the Dragon; not sure I could live with it day-in, day-out.  His partner is spotting for oncoming traffic--always a good idea if you have a co-pilote.

Mostly, this footage makes me pine for the Dragon.  Along with Killboy's fine videos, it will have to last me until next spring.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF118MLIn4g


"This Vehicle Authorized On Or Near The Dragon" (see sign).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pilote Doesn't Need More Power, But If he DID...

Link to an aftermarket supercharged Gen 6 Civic Si.  Sorry about the promotional chit-chat; just advance the video to  the in-car parts.  This would be the ticket to having a chance to stay with Hotshoe Wannabe's contemplated Focus ST.  Pocket rocket, indeed.  And how to make 1st gear even shorter: the drivers spend maybe two seconds in it...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_PvtmZlc0E

Spy Photo

After conquering the SUV market segment with the Cayenne, and the luxury
sedan segment with the Panamera, Porsche turns its attention to light trucks.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pilote's Top Three (Recent Years)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  A color commentator for an ALMS race said he was impressed with the Ferrari 458 Italia, but he didn't much care for the looks compared to the F 430.  I couldn't disagree more.  Styling-wise, these are my Top Three over, say, the last decade.  What are yours?

Ferrari 458 Italia "securely parked" at Blackhawk Farms.  The whole car works for me, including the greenhouse and the rear.  But I especially love the front: all the surfaces and slits are aerodynamically functional, and the front of the car no longer looks fat (like the 360 Modena and the F 430 did).  It doesn't shout "Look at me!  I'm a Supercar!" like the F 40 did.  The silver trim "nostrils" echo the Tipo 156 GP car.  Who says you can't do a "regulation bumper height" front end that doesn't look great?

I must have dozens of pictures of the S 197 Mustang.  As usual, Killboy captures the look best.  Of course,  Ford only did this body for 5 years.  Then they began screwing it up.  Now, with the "family identity" Carp Nose, the Mustang is flat ugly again.  On this one, the owner has painted the mirrors body-color: an improvement.  But he should have checked the "rear wing delete" box too.

2003 Acura RSX.  I love the slope nose, headlights, and simple alloy wheels.  This car is so "close-coupled:" there is not a square inch of sheet metal on it that doesn't need to be there to enclose the mechanicals, cabin, and trunk.  Very few "character lines" to develop the surfaces, and the ones that are there work well.  The Tuner Way seems to be that a car is improved with a body kit--or at least faux carbon-fiber panels here and there.  On the RSX, tuners would be wrong.  It's as good as a mass-produced car gets.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Ferrari 156

Phil Hill, Ferrari 156, Casino Square,  Monaco, in his World Championship year.

The Ferrari 156 was a surprise to the Brits and Porsche at the first race of the 1961 season at Monaco.  While Stirling Moss took the pole (and won the race) in a Lotus 18, Ferrari filled the next three grid spots with a new car, the Tipo 156.  Enzo had done his first rear-engined car, a Formula 2 racer with the V-6 Dino engine, a year earlier.  But it was large, heavy, and slow.  Cooper and Lotus saw little threat from Ferrari for 1961, when Formula 1 dropped from 2.5 to 1.5 liters.

Enzo caught them napping with the 156.  It was a much smaller, lighter car, although still not as light as a Lotus 18/21.  The basic suspension (A-arms front and rear) was copied from the most refined Cooper design.  But the spring rates were soft, so Ferrari used extreme negative camber at all four corners to keep the outside tires upright when the car rolled.  Pictures of 156's with steering input showed each wheel with an odd and amusing suspension travel arc of its own.

 Nobody was smiling after Monaco but Ferrari.  The car was an out-of-the-box winner.  Moss scored another victory at the Nurburgring by running sticky rain tires in a dry race (against Dunlop's advice).  But Ferrari won the rest of the races through Monza, clinching the driver's title for Phil Hill.  Enzo didn't even bother to send cars to the last race of the season at Watkins Glen.  The 156 won five of seven races, and probably would have won six of eight had it contested the U.S.G.P.

The centerpiece of the 156, like all Ferraris, was its engine.  The Dino 156 began life as a 170 h.p. Formula 2 engine in 1957.  By 1961 Ferrari had found an additional 10 h.p.,  20% more than his rivals.  And he sprung a further surprise on them midway through the season: a 120-degree V-6 Dino with 190 h.p. that lowered the car's center of gravity.  The 156 was Ferrari's first car to use engine size and number of cylinders (1.5 liters, 6 cylinders) instead of individual cylinder size to designate a model.  The 156 didn't handle as well as the Lotus 18/21, but it didn't matter.  Rivals were buried under an avalanche of power.  No original 156's survive.  This car is a tribute in Ecurie  Francorchamps's yellow national colors to replicate the car Olivier Gendebien drove to 4th place at Spa in 1961--preceded by the three Scuderia Ferrari cars.

"If it looks right, it is right."  Ricardo Rodriguez in the (older) 65-degree Dino 156 he drove to a DNF at Monza in 1961.  The engine was so powerful that Ferrari's traditional Borrani wire wheels with knock-off hubs were not a significant give-up to the alloys run by Cooper, Lotus, and Porsche.  The 156's "shark nose" was the inspiration of Ferrari's body-builder, Scaglietti.  Enzo liked his cars to look the part, not just act the part. 

The sad note to Ferrari's 1961 season was the death of Wolfgang Von Trips and 15 spectators at Monza after he touched wheels with Jim Clark's Lotus.  Von Trips was Phil Hill's only rival for the driver's championship.  This eerily prefigured Mario Andretti's championship year in 1979.  Mario's only rival was his Lotus teammate, Ronnie Peterson--killed at Monza.  As many readers of these lines will know, only two Americans have won the World Championship: Phil Hill and Mario Andretti.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Chicane Blog

I have mentioned and linked to this blog in the past.  I like it so much that I've joined it to be alerted to new posts, and have begun commenting now and then.  If you are interested in road racing in the 1950's and 1960's (and earlier), you may like it too.  Check it out.  Here again is the link:

http://thechicaneblog.com/

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stripped, Sweet, 911




Pilote is a pushover for minimalism, and this Porsche 911 has it in spades.  The engine bay and especially the interior are a visual feast.  Owner/builder Achim Anscheidt wasn't even born when the 911 was introduced, but obviously understands and loves the car's aesthetic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAY5fRglsb4

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Purdy Car, Purdy Picture

BRM P 139, Pedro Rodriguez, Station (now Lowe's) Hairpin, Monaco Grand Prix, 1968

There's no point to this post, other than beauty.  I love these "cigar cars," as my non-buff sister (and now I) call them.  The cars designed in the early years of the 3-liter formula, starting in 1966, were the best-looking Formula 1 cars ever done, in my opinion.  In pictures like this, they also look like they were huge fun to drive.  They did not last for long.  400 horsepower with low drag in a 1600-lb. car was a recipe for aero lift.  By 1968 the Lotus 49 had sprouted wings--and advertising.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Off Topic: Fire The Ad Agency

Buick is running holiday ads for the "35 m.p.g. highway LaCrosse."  They show people delighted with their Christmas presents of Segue scooters or Smart cars, with bows on them.  Then a LaCrosse cruises by at 20 m.p.h.  They realize that they cudda hadda Buick.  Sadness and self-reproach descend upon them.

These ads made me think of how much more fun a Segue or a Smart would be than a Buick.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Stellar Season

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Brazilian GP, November 25, 2012

Great season, Fernando.  You did what you could with a second-rate (or even third-rate) car.  You got more out of it than anyone else could have.  You made no mistakes while your principal rivals made several.  You consistently finished higher than would be expected from your grid positions, and without any help from your teammate until late in the season.  You kept your cool, and gave Vettel and Hamilton as much as they could handle.  Sometimes second is first, and 2012 was one of those times.  You're my World Champion.  Honorable mention to Jenson Button, for his usual flashes of brilliance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Road Warrior

At Thanksgiving, half of Chicagoland visits Minneapolis-St. Paul and half of the latter visits the former.  So I forgot spirited Interstate motoring on the way up and saved it for the midweek return trip.  A new wrinkle on the near-north side of downtown Minneapolis this year was bicycle lanes on major arterial streets.

1) The two traffic lanes on the arterial road are narrower, sometimes clogging traffic.
2) It is now illegal to make a right on red from entering side streets, which also clogs traffic and wastes time.
3) You'd better not make a right turn off the arterial onto a side street without craning your neck, because the biker riding straight through the intersection will take the right-of-way, even though, technically, it's not his.
4) Take-out pizza is now delivered on bicycles, with pin-point headlights and no tail lights, on dimly-lit side streets; I wonder how warm it is at this time of year?
5) Apparently some bicyclists ride drunk because "you won't hit it as hard as you would in a car."  And see above, inadequate headlights and no tail lights.

As an added bonus, Pilote was reminded, as he made a mid-block left turn into a commercial driveway, that pedestrians don't stop for you.  Trying to beat oncoming rush-hour traffic by timing your move?  That's your problem, buddy.  I'm afoot, and I look neither right nor left, nor do I slack my pace, because I have the right-of-way.

As previously posted, I love the walkability of small European cities.  But they were built to be walkable, 1000 years ago or more.  You park your car in the center of town and proceed on foot for the rest of your time there.  Bicycles use the regular traffic lanes (which are tight and congested anyway).
Within minutes of arriving in Minneapolis, I missed downtown Chicago sorely, where bike messengers and pedestrians crossing against the light (not to mention jaywalking) take their lives in their hands.  Roads are for cars.

*     *     *

Somewhat behind schedule, I was reminded of why I didn't care much for Minneapolis in the years I lived there.  In 12 hours, the ambient temperature dropped from 55 degrees to 19, with a 10-knot wind gusting to 20.  We got a dusting of snow too, which was still there 6 days later because the ambient never got above the low 20's.  In Chicagoland, the snow doesn't stick until Christmas time, and we usually get a January thaw.  I began this paragraph with "somewhat behind schedule" because Minneapolis usually gets a big, wet, dump in early November.  

Spring doesn't come until May.  Trees turn green before then, and flowering stuff flowers.  But it doesn't get warm.  By July, the heat is awful.  There are no Great Lakes to perform a heat sink function; it just gets hot.  Until September.  May and September are lovely.  To be fair, I know people who have lived happily in Minneapolis-St. Paul their entire lives.  They love it.  They can't imagine leaving such a livable metropolitan area.  And I'll say this much for it: the automatic car washes stay open in winter, and they work.  (Yes, your doors freeze shut.)  In Chicagoland, go find a car wash that doesn't ice up, with an Out Of Order sign at the entrance, when it gets a few degrees below 32 F for a couple of days in a row.  It was 15 degrees when I ran the Civic through the automatic car wash in Minneapolis.

*     *     *

I've raved about how much I love my Si before, and will now do so again.  The TPMS dash lite finally came on for the new O.Z. Allegerrita wheel/tire package, but it took the aforementioned 36 degree overnight drop in ambient to do it.  It was way too cold to fiddle with a pressure gauge, so I just gave each corner a 4-second shot of air.  The light went out.  Now that I'm back in the land of reasonable daytime temperatures, I'll take a gauge to them.

On the run home, the roads were dry and the weather was clear.  You can buy more power than a Gen 6 Honda Civic Si has, but you can't use it without paying large fines.  I averaged 67 m.p.h. over 450 miles, including two quick gas/comfort stops, one of which included adding washer fluid and air to the tires.  And taking the "scenic route" down the Mississippi River with stoplights in towns.  The car is always right there with me: shifting up or down, braking, cornering.  And I can maintain very high average speeds.  Plenty of room in the trunk and four doors for adults, child car-seats, school backpacks, &c. &c. &c.  (It is amazing how much stuff a first-grader carts to and from school for gym class and a soccer program, along with a modicum of homework.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Eating Crow (2012 U.S. GP)

Well... Circuit of the Americas will certainly do, and I withdraw my "cookie cutter" post of a few days back.  The "uphill" into Turn 1 is very challenging, a sucker bend.  The decreasing-radius esses provide a like challenge.  (They remind me of Virginia International Raceway except way faster.)   The long straight puts a premium on top speed.  This circuit is hard to engineer a GP car for.  And, if need be, one or more turns can be removed from the twisty bits just before the pit straight, to make it an even faster circuit.  How the promotors managed to find or make as many elevation changes as this circuit has remains a mystery.

And it was a fine race.  Lewis Hamilton chased down Sebastian Vettel twice, and passed him once.  Fernando Alonso must have a Cuisinart.  He turned the lemons of a 7th-place qualifying run into a lemonade 3rd-place finish, keeping his hopes to win the WDC alive until next weekend at Brazil.  Go Fernando!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two More Mille Miglia Pics...

...just because they capture the flavor of the Mille so well...

Peter Collins at the wheel of his Ferrari 335 S, shot by his co-driver, Louis Klementaski.  They led most of the 1957 race.

At the Bologna Control/pit stop, Collins points to the 335 S's differential, telling Enzo Ferrari (leaning on car) that it is
 making loud and unusual noises.  Klementaski is seated in the car.  They coasted into the next Control at Parma, DNF. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Mille Miglia Ferraris



The Postwar Mille Miglia was run for 11 years, from 1947 to 1957.  Ferrari won it eight times, with a wide variety of models.  The other winners were Alfa Romeo (1947), Lancia (1954), and Mercedes-Benz (1955).

1948: Clement Biondetti's 166 S (2-liter) Barchetta.  The first 12-cylinder Ferrari, and the first one built in quantities you needed more than one hand to count.  It was a good year for Enzo, and the beginning of the Ferrari mystique: Luigi Chinetti won LeMans for him too.  Biondetti had won the first postwar Mille, the year before, in an Alfa 8C2900.

1949: Clement Biondetti's 166 MM Barchetta: the same car, now called a Mille Miglia in honor of the previous year's win.  A car's racing number was its driver's starting time, in this case, 7:33 a.m.  This made it easiers for spectators to tell who was ahead as the field passed them by.  The fastest Mille took 10 hours, won by Stirling Moss in a Mercedes 300SLR in 1955 with Dennis Jenkinson co-driving,  giving Moss route notes from a rolling scroll.  Most Milles took 11+ hours for the "big dog" cars to complete.

1950: Giannino Marzotto's 195 S, coupe version of the 166, bored out to 2.3 liters.  Not to detract from the achievement of Ferrari and his drivers, but the Mille was a "specialist" race.  Even though foreign teams spent as long as two weeks in Italy practicing, it was impossible to learn a 1000 mile course.  Most drivers approached it as a rally, with a co-driver giving hand signals from route notes.  A co-driver was not required, however, and several Ferrari pilotes (and many others) drove the Mille solo.

1951: Luigi Villoresi's 340 America (4.1 liter), first of the big bore Ferraris to run the Mille.  Some of the body damage is from an accident that, not-so-incidentally, killed two spectators.  This picture was taken at a Control, where competitors got their Route Cards time-stamped by race officials.  The Controls were at locations to make it hard for competitors to cheat by taking short-cuts.

1952: Giovanni Bracco's 250 S.  This was the same small-block V-12 bored out to 3 liters.

Bracco's 250 S, restored, in the Ferrari Museum today.

1953: Giannino Marzatto's 340 MM (4.1 liter) , about to be flagged off from the starting ramp.

1956: Eugenio Castellotti's 290 MM (3.5 liter).  This was the "rain Mille."  Although it often rained during the race, it rarely rained hard or for long periods of time.  1956 was the exception: wet almost from beginning to end.  Castellotti is driving without goggles in this picture and seems to be casting his eyes heavenward, asking "how long, Oh Lord, how long?" 

A better picture of Castellotti's 1956 winner, taken when the road was merely damp.

1957: Piero Taruffi crosses the finish line ahead of Wolfgang Von Trips's identical 315 S (3.8 liter).  Alfonso DePortago's accident in a similar 335 S, which killed 10 spectators along with DePortago and his co-driver, ended the Mille.

2007 Mille Miglia Rally: Prisca Taruffi and Bruce McCaw in her father's winning car from 50 years before, now owned by McCaw.